Thursday, August 12, 2010

Conference on Language Policy in the Caribbean

Linguists have generally complained that policy makers do not listen to them on matters of language which require the expertise of linguists. This is particularly true in the area of Language Education. The goal of the International Conference on Language Rights and Language Policy in the Creole-speaking Caribbean is to bring together a group of Caribbean policy makers from across the Caribbean and members of the ICCLR network. The point would be to develop a programme of activities and applied research which would both draw on the experiences across the Caribbean and the range of linguistic research available.

The special feature of this conference would be the attempt to be very high profile, and to put linguists and linguistics at the centre of public awareness. Among the proposed invitees would be the two linguists who have served or are still serving as Governors-General, i.e. Sir Colville Young and Dame Pearlette Louisy. Policy makers would be constrained, in such an environment, to pay some attention to the linguistic advice being made available.

The three areas of focus will be (i) Language in Education, (ii) Language and the Law, and (iii) Endangered languages. The period between August and November, 2010, would involve the drafting and circulation for discussion of the various clauses in a draft Convention on Language Rights and Language Policies in the Creole-speaking Caribbean. At the actual conference, the various stakeholders across the Caribbean, representing Ministries of Education, Ministries of Justice and particular interest groups involved with language policy and practice, would discuss the draft convention and arrive at a final wording. In addition, they would identify programmes of implementation for each of the Creole speaking countries represented and methods by which the ICCLR and other bodies can facilitate this implementation.

Responding to the Haitian Earthquake Disaster

The JLU/UCLR, as part of the ICCLR network, implemented a response to the January, 2010 Haiti Earthquake disaster. This it dedicated to memory of all those who had died, and in particular our colleague, Pierre Vernet, Director of the Institut de Linguistique Appliqué, of the State University of Haiti, who died, along with his introductory linguistics class of over 60 students when the earthquake struck. As part of an effort to assist with the official CARICOM relief effort, the JLU/UCLR implemented, in collaboration with the Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy a special offering of L28A - The Structure and Usage of French Lexicon Creole I for a group of 44 members of the Health, Security and NGO communities involved in the Haiti relief and reconstruction work. This course was completed in April, 2010. The offering of L28B – The Structure and Usage of French Lexicon Creole II to a select group of those who successfully completed L28A began in June, 2010 and is scheduled to be complete by August 13.

Above: Some of the students who completed level 1 of the Haitian Creole course along with representatives of the Military and the JLU/UCLR.


Above: Key individuals at the Haitian Creole programme award ceremony. From left: Dr. Matthew Smith, Doreen Preston, Capt. Lewis, Prof. Hubert Devonish and Dr. Kathryn Brodber.

The Caribbean Indigenous and Endangered Languages (CIEL) Upgraded Website

The JLU/UCLR, in collaboration with UNESCO, upgraded The Indigenous and Endangered Languages website originally mounted by the JLU/ICCLR in 2007, in collaboration with UNESCO, in April 2009. The Endangered Languages receiving special attention so far are: Garifuna, Lokono, Trinidad French Creole, Saramakan and Kromanti.

Part of the upgrade was the creation of 7 video documentaries covering (i) Berbice Dutch Creole, (ii) Garifuna, (iii) Trinidadian French Creole, (iv) Kromanti & Maroon Old Time Patwa, (v) Ararwak, (vi) Survey of Caribbean Indigenous Languages, and (vii) Survey of Caribbean Creole Languages. There is, in addition, a page on the website for students across the Caribbean who, as part of their completion of secondary education, have to do the CAPE Communication Studies course which requires them to have a detailed understanding of Caribbean languages and Caribbean language situations. The CAPE Communication Studies page provides authoritative information, in a multi-media format, on various Caribbean languages and their structure.

The link for the site is: www.caribbeanlanguages.org.jm

Our First ICCLR Project: Caribbean Gender Stereotypes

One of the research areas targeted in the original ICCLR proposal was Language and Sexuality. This has kicked off with a Caribbean Gender Stereotypes Study. Funded by the Caribbean Child Support Initiative, two entities within the ICCLR, the JLU/UCLR in collaboration with the Caribbean Lexicography Project collected data from both Jamaican and Barbadian adult populations on the issue of gender stereotypes in their respective societies.

A list of male and female-associated adjectives was presented to both populations and the participants asked to assign these adjectives to the more appropriate gender according to their cultural definitions. These adjectives were then presented to a number of children in both Barbados and Jamaica with a view to determining child stereotypes about gender. Two hundred and thirty six (236) informants were interviewed by the study.

There are plans to expand this gender stereotype data base by collecting data from other Caribbean adult populations e.g. Toronto, Birmingham, Florida (USA), and Trinidad. The findings from this expanded data base will be used to produce research papers on the impact of popular culture on the sexual expression of Caribbean adults over the last ten (10) years. This paper is expected to be ready by December 2010.

A spin-off of this research, of interest to the Caribbean Lexicography Project, is the proposed production of a list of technical terms for sexuality, sexually transmitted infections, etc. for Jamaican, and a list of matching terms to be produced for Bajan through recordings of interviews at clinics, hospitals, etc.

The International Centre For Caribbean Language Research (ICCLR): Who Are We?

Linguists at the University of the West Indies, during a cross-Campus meeting in April, 2009, agreed on the need to create an international network of scholars working on Caribbean language issues. This was to take the form of what would be called, the International Centre for Caribbean Language Research (ICCLR). It would be coordinated from the Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Language Research (JLU/UCLR), at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies.


The researchers’ network was, over the last year, in the process of construction. We have invited specific researchers, based on their own special interests, to become associated with one or more of the areas of focus of the ICCLR. These, along with other researchers who have kindly agreed to become associates of the ICCLR, have been asked to link themselves to the ICCLRs’ particular areas of focus.


Projects (1), (2) & (3) – Digital Archive, Endangered Languages and Language Description

Marlyse Baptista - Dept. Of Linguistics, University of Michigan

Enita Barrett - Dept. of Education, University of North Florida

Alicia Beckford-Wassink - Dept. of Linguistics, University of Washington

Keren Cumberbatch - The Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Research, UWI, Mona.

Stephanie Durrleman - Tame Associate Professor, University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Walter Edwards - School for Graduate Studies, Wayne State University, Illinois

Sandra Evans - Dept. of Liberal Arts, UWI, St. Augustine

Jo-Anne Ferreira - Dept. of Liberal Arts, UWI, St. Augustine

Shallome Gooden - Dept of Linguistics, University of Pittsburg

Audene Henry - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona.

Nicole Scott - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona

Andre Sherriah - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona

Ulrike Zeshan - International Centre for Sign Languages, University of Central Lancashire.


Project 4 – Communication Across the Curriculum

Alison Altidor-Brooks - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona.

John Campbell - Office of the Board for Undergraduate Studies and Faculty of Humanities and Education, UWI, St. Augustine.

Caroline Dyche - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona.

Ingrid McLaren - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona.

Paulette Ramsay - Dept. of Modern Languages, UWI, Mona.


Project 5 – Sexuality and Language in the Caribbean

Karen Carpenter - The Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Research, UWI, Mona.

Keren Cumberbatch – The Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Research, UWI, Mona.

Hubert Devonish - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona

Marva Phillips – Hugh Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, The Open Campus, UWI.


Project 6 & 7 – Bilingual Education

Marlyse Baptista - Dept. Of Linguistics, University of Michigan

John Baugh – Education and Afro-American Studies, University of Washington, St. Louis, Missouri.

Karen Carpenter - The Jamaican Language Unit/Unit for Caribbean Research, UWI, Mona.

Hubert Devonish - Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy, UWI, Mona

Marta Dijkhoff - University of the Netherlands Antilles

Walter Edwards - School for Graduate Studies, Wayne State University, Illinois

Marva Phillips - Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, Open Campus, UWI

John Rickford - Dept. of Linguistics, Stanford University.



We also have been fortunate to have institutional affiliates. These include the Society for Caribbean Linguistics, as well as the Hugh Lawson Shearer Institute for Trade Union Education and the Consortium for Social Development & Research, both of the Open Campus of UWI, and the Caribbean Lexicography Project of the Cave Hill Campus of UWI.